Lake Tahoe facts and information
© Copyright, 2012, R. Fleischer
"Tahoe" comes from a mispronunciation of the Washoe Indian name for Lake Tahoe, da ow a ga; which means "edge of the lake"
Lake Tahoe, photo by Snowbum, taken from the southeast area, at the lower level at Heavenly Valley.
Snowbum getting caught up on his reading!
One of a number of easily hiked-to waterfalls
Shoveling snow (Snowbum ALSO has an ancient 1969 snowblower)
Snowbum lives at Lake Tahoe..... in the South shore area AND city called South Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe is a substantial-sized and quite deep NATURALLY FORMED lake. Lake Tahoe was formed about 2 million years ago by upheavals in the mountains surrounding it, and then, later, by glacier action. It is the 10th deepest lake in the World, and the 2nd deepest in the USA.
The geographic center of Lake Tahoe is at 39°06'30" N; 120°01'51" W.
The lake is relatively irregular in shape, that is, it is not a clean round circle shape. Its general dimensions are a length of 21.9 miles, width of 11.9 miles, and ~ 72 miles of shoreline, of which over half is in California and the rest is in Nevada. The lake is bisected by artificial State lines, that is, part of it is in both States. 5 Counties have a portion of the Lake, 2 in California, and 3 in Nevada.
The surface area of the lake is about 193 square miles (equivalent to about 122,000 acres).
The surrounding mountains vary from ~9,000' to nearly 11,000'.
The Lake's water, taken as a whole, is 99.994% pure (distilled water is 99.998% pure). The Lake contains ~39 trillion gallons.
Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and the second deepest lake in the U.S.
More facts are available at http://tahoefacts.com
Lots of photos of Lake Tahoe are HERE:
Lake Tahoe is fed by 63 streams; and 2 hot springs.
The average elevation of the surface of the Lake is 6225.1 feet above average sea level. The average depth is 989 feet, the maximum depth is 1645 feet (slightly in dispute). One survey by the Federal Government, with a rather accurate instrument, measured it at 1637 feet.
The Lake has a stated natural rim, which basically means that if the water level rises higher than rim level, water would flow out of the lake into the Truckee River; but there is a dam there. The Natural Rim is officially set at 6223 feet above sea level. The lowest level recorded is in 1992, when the level was 6220.2 feet. HOWEVER: There is only ONE outlet.....at the Northwest part of the lake, at the town of Tahoe City, where the Federal Watermaster controls a rather small dam, which is controlled to not let the maximum lake elevation exceed 6,229 feet. The outlet supplies lots of fun for rafters, etc., as the water makes its way to and through Reno, Nevada.
The clarity at the present time is about 70 feet in depth. Clarity is measured by the Secchi disc method.
The water temperature at the surface is about 40-50° in February & March, & about 65-70° in August-September. After one goes down just a few feet, the temperature is relatively stable, and by the time one goes down to 600 feet, from that point onwards it is a constant 39°F. Due to its depth, Lake Tahoe never freezes.
Many drowning victims are never recovered from the Lake. The cold water at lower depths preserves the bodies and prevents the formation of enough quantity of gases to float the bodies to the surface.
Lake Tahoe has, IMO, too many of various types of Agencies having control over it. One such, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) was particularly egregious to locals in the past, and some of that feeling persists. TRPA controls almost everything that has to do with building, and LOTS more. TRPA does some good things, but is rather political, much more than they admit, and they ARE influenced by corporate lawyers.
Most questions about the Lake Tahoe region have to do with how much snow we get, what the temperatures and weather patterns are like....and how much water REALLY IS in the lake.
To answer THAT, there is enough water in Lake Tahoe, to cover the entire State of Texas to about a foot, and would cover California to 14-1/2 inches. The typical Spring runoff causes the Lake to rise about 15 inches. Some literature says that EVERY DAY, enough water EVAPORATES from Lake Tahoe to supply 3-1/2 million people. The figure some literature uses is 1,400,000 TONS per day; but, the real figure is just under 900,000 TONS per day.. The official figure for an average day, averaged over many years as the lake rises and falls a bit over time, is 219 MILLION GALLONS of water EVAPORATE from the Lake EVERY DAY. Lake Tahoe can AND DOES cause its own weather system, clouds & much more and can influence weather headed our way.
There is enough water in Lake Tahoe to supply everyone in the United States with 50 gallons of water per day for five years. The amount of water that evaporates from the surface of Lake Tahoe every year could supply a city the size of Los Angeles for 5 years.
Highest temperature ever recorded at South Lake Tahoe: 99°F on July 22, 1988.
Lowest temperature I know about, and HIGHLY unusual was MINUS 29°F on February 7, 1989 and same on
December 9, 1972.
Storms can last minutes...or days. There was a good one in March of 1982, that lasted awhile and dropped 187 inches of snow.
The typical weather, YEAR-ROUND, is rather mild. In Winter it is often so sunny & mild that one can go outside either bare-chested or with a T-shirt. January is the coldest month, with a maximum of 41°F, and a minimum of 15°F. These are the AVERAGES.
With the low humidity, the weather is VERY pleasant when it is in the eighties, as well as when it is below freezing.
We occasionally get hail in Spring; it is small in size, and may come down as 'corn snow'...which is like large grains of sand.
A typical ENTIRE Winter here will have a total snow drop of 18 to 20 feet at Lake level. Obviously this is NOT the measured amount at any one time! Much of the snow dropped here will do so over a 50 day period.
August is the warmest month, with the maximum TYPICALLY about 79°F; but sometimes reaches the low to mid eighties. In September, the average is about 70°F during the daytime; in October about 60°F. It is not terribly unusual for August into early October to have days with maximums of the mid-eighties.
On average, 232 days a year minimum temperatures (at night typically!) are just about at the freezing point (32°F). Zero degree days, while not overly rare, are also not overly common...perhaps 8 such per year.
If you are really curious, you can get all sorts of information, including photos from outer space (Shuttle), at:
It was a windy day, November 8, 2012. Waves off shore at the Incline Village area of Lake Tahoe....brought out an old OLD surfer...whose name shall be hidden here.
03/06/2016: Metacodes, layout.
08/19/2016: Metacodes, scripts, H.L., cleanup html
© Copyright, 2012, R. Fleischer
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Last check/edit: Monday, January 15, 2018